12/27/2012 05:40 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2013

Ready, Set, Go!


"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." -- Agatha Christie

Okay, so a new year is nearly upon us and we all have our goals ready, right? Each goal is measurable, stated in present tense and set within a time frame. We've visualized it, written it down, and maybe even posted it on our bathroom mirror. We've told our supportive friends about it and even come up with an action plan.

So why is it so hard to get into action?

Whether it's getting off the coach to exercise or picking up the phone to make those sales calls, the inertia and our resistance at the beginning seems almost insurmountable at times. We find ourselves saying, "ready, set, set, set" and the "go!" never comes. We know that the "journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step." But that first small step can feel like climbing Kilimanjaro, and many of us end up abandoning our goal before the ink is dry on that 3x5 card we created to carry in our wallets.

This inertia is really common. Many of us simply push through it and browbeat ourselves into action -- but this can backfire. Personally, I find the resistance comes from a few sources, and if I understand the source, I can eliminate or reduce the resistance.

#1: The Goal Is Too Big. As Scottish clergyman Peter Marshall said, "Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned." This isn't to say that you should aim for less than you really want. But if you don't really believe that you can achieve the goal you've set, you'll find you can't get up the energy to even try. If your goal is to make $5 million this year, but the most you've ever made is $40,000, your unconscious mind (which runs more of the show than your conscious mind!) will reject the goal and not move toward it. Your goal should be a stretch but something that, with focus and effort, you really believe you can achieve. For example, where money is concerned, most coaches would tell you to aim for no more than 20 percent higher than your highest income level.

#2: The Goal Is Not Yours. I had personal experience with this when I first tried to lose weight and become healthier. Initially, I wanted this goal for others: my family, my students. It wasn't until I wanted to shed the weight and get fit for myself that I really got into consistent action. A goal that is based on pleasing someone else is always built on a shaky foundation. Double check your goals and ask: "Really, who is this for?" If it turns out it's for someone else, figure out a goal that is more self-driven.

#3: The Goal Isn't Ecological. In NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), we teach that any change must be "ecological." In other words, does it really serve the rest of your life? Is it good for you? Your family? Your community? Your planet? If the answer is no to any of these, you may be conflicted about the goal. For example, a young mother had the goal of traveling the world. She had the opportunity to sign on to be a masseuse on a cruise ship. But it became obvious that this would not serve her children. She revised her goal to find travel opportunities that could include being with her family.

#4: The Goal Is Just a Wish. A good goal is usually going to stretch you out of your comfort zone, so it takes commitment. A wish is something that would be nice to achieve, but you don't feel committed enough to it to do the stretching you'll have to do. Henry David Thoreau wrote, "What you get by achieving your goals is not nearly as important as who you become by achieving your goals." I agree. But it takes strong desire to become that new person, and a mere wish usually won't cut it.

#5: The Goal Is Bumping Into a Limiting Belief. This is different from #1. In this case, you look at the goal and consciously know that it is achievable. You have a very reasonable action plan and plenty of support, but you just can't take that first step! Often, this points to an unconscious limiting belief. Your unconscious mind takes action to thwart your efforts based on that belief. For example, you know that you can make five marketing calls per day to reach your goal of four new clients per month. But your hand freezes up when you reach for the phone. Quite possibly, you have some unconscious belief that you'll be rejected, and that rejection is personal. In NLP, we use several simple techniques to unearth and rid yourself of such limiting beliefs. And the first step is always recognition.

If you're having trouble getting to "Fire!" review your goals against the five points above. If your goals don't fit as in #1 through #4, change them! If they do fit, but you're running into limiting beliefs, know that those can be changed as well.

Here's to taking that first step and achieving what you desire!

Got questions? Please respond here or contact me through my Facebook fan page, Twitter, or my blog.


Dr. Matt

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About the Author: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. Dr. Matt has also immersed himself in Huna, the ancient practices of the Hawaiian islands of forgiveness and meditation for mental health and well-being, and he carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna. In his most recent book, Find Your Purpose, Master Your Path, Dr. Matt melds the ancient wisdom of Huna with modern psychology to assist us in leading conscious, purpose-driven lives. He contributes regularly to The Huffington Post and Psychology Today blogs. For more information and to receive Dr. Matt's NLP Fast-Track Video eCourse for free, visit